New Year’s Resolution for Entrepreneurs and Startup Mavericks

A resolution for all you entrepreneurs out there:

I will start my own business in 2010!

I will work hard and be successful because I will not be discouraged and I will never give up.
I will talk to a customer every day and find out how I can provide them with value.
I will treat my customers and co-founders with the respect I expect from them. Continue reading

Team/Market Fit is more important than Product/Market Fit

This New Year’s Eve, I’m resolving to work on the most important part of my own startup, the team. Specifically, I’m going to try as hard as possible to deserve to work with my co-founders, who are both more experienced and have a better understanding of technology than I can aspire to. But although I’ve heard a lot of common sense arguments about the importance of a good team, I find that a good deal of literature on the subject is easily misunderstood. I’m sure many people have read and agree with the most famous example of this. Marc Andreessen’s blog post is a fantastic discussion on the importance of a good market to the success of a startup. Marc correctly posits that a good team with a good product in a bad market will fail. He goes on to say explicitly that:

  • When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
  • When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
  • When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.

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Merry Xmas!…now shut up and start coding.

Just about every entrepreneur I’ve met in Silicon Valley knows how to write more than a few lines of code. The ones that don’t are constantly looking for a partner to build their dream product. You know, the one that will make them a billion dollars. I’d guess you’d have to count me among them. But waiting around for a dream co-founder doesn’t cut it around here. That’s why this Christmas I’m writing code.

I haven’t written a line since high school when the two languages I knew were Pascal and MACOS. In case your wondering, MACOS wasn’t even a proper language, only worked on my Apple II series, and stood for More of A Crappy Operating System. I don’t even know what it was, but it sure wasn’t Mac OS X. I used it for my bulletin board system (BBS for those that remember pre-www). I never saw an instruction book, not sure there was one, but I was able to understand the basic syntax easily enough and hack code from different available sources into something vaguely resembling what I wanted. But that was over 16 years ago. I have no business writing code professionally, but sometimes business requires you to do something unprofessional. Continue reading

Productive Chaos: How to Hurry Without Rushing (p. 1)

As founders, we often tend to work ridiculous hours in the hopes that more hours = more revenue. This is often not the case. Instead, we cause a lot of motion and the dust is well stirred, but little is actually accomplished. I have found that most people get about 4 productive hours out of the day, no matter how many hours they actually put in. Especially since the average “I worked a twenty hour day” usually consists of several meal breaks, watercooler BS, daydreaming, IM, office politics, chain mail, the latest viral video, sexual innuendo, and other nonsense.

I’d rather work productively for 4 hours than unproductively for 20. So I retrained my work habits until I could get a normal days work done in four hours, and then I started increasing my hours from there. Nowadays I can get a genuinely productive 16 hour day if I need to, but generally settle somewhere between 7 and 9 with a healthy amount of time for non-goal oriented learning and creative thinking. Here’s a list of little tips that have helped me, many of which come from Getting Things Done by David Allen. It’s worth a read if you’re not familiar with it. Sometime it’s a bit tedious and you’ll find that you already know 50-80% of it, but the parts you don’t know are extremely valuable. Continue reading

Helping Hand

I’m struck by how open the startup community is in Silicon Valley. There seems to be an unending supply of people who are willing to take time out of their day to give advice, lend a hand, or otherwise be almost unacceptably nice. Beyond the obvious, I think it’s a key component of why Silicon Valley is able to churn out such a high amount of innovation year after year.

One example is Bob Dourandish from Revenzy.com. I met him at the SV New Tech Meetup for all of five minutes before he offered to take a look at our site and offer some advice on how to market it. Since then, he’s spent more of his time discussing our ideas and even wrote a very nice blog post mentioning us. Any benefit to him? Marginal at best. Sure, maybe he gets one more alpha tester for his site and a mention in this blog, but that’s hardly going to line his coffers anytime soon. Continue reading

StartUp SF v2.2 – “Give Your Ideas Ex-Lax” with David Weekly

On Wednesday I went to see David Weekly speak at StartUp SF v2.2 – “Give Your Ideas Ex-Lax”. I’d heard a shorter version before at Startup Weekend, but I was glad to see it again and hear the full version. I largely agree with the ideas behind it, which David shares with Eric Ries, Steve Blank and others, but it does raise a question I wish I had some statistics on.

Does getting ideas out the door faster increase the overall success rate of ideas? Or do you just have more chances at getting it right?

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Note from SV New Tech Meetup

This evening I went to the SV New Tech meetup in Palo Alto, CA hosted by Vincent Lauria and was again impressed at the release early, release often mentality that pervades Silicon Valley. But since enough has been written about the theory and execution of lean startups, I thought I’d mention an application which I don’t think has been tried: Music.

I’ve played music since I was four years old and played in more than one band. Actually I’ve released more than one album to the deafening silence of no audience, so I have to wonder if the lean startup / customer development methodology could help aspiring musicians. But more importantly, would any musician dare to try it?

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Introduction

This is the first blog post for startupSQUARE!

Over the next days, weeks, and months we’ll be building up the site, testing our assumptions and launching. While we’re doing that, I’ve started this blog where I’ll be posting our lessons learned and updates about how the site is going. If you’re interested in seeing what we’re up to, please subscribe, follow us on Twitter, or otherwise get involved by visiting startupSQUARE.com and checking it out.

Thank you,

Tristan